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New Light on the Early History of the Theatre in Shoreditch [with texts]

DAVID MATEER
English Literary Renaissance
Vol. 36, No. 3 (AUTUMN 2006), pp. 335-375
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43447662
Page Count: 41
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New Light on the Early History of the Theatre in Shoreditch [with texts]
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Abstract

Documents from the court of King's Bench, recently discovered in the National Archives at Kew, London, illuminate the activities of the Theatre's owners, James Burbage and John Brayne, in the years immediately following its construction in 1576/1577. The impresarios first breached an agreement with the acting Master of the Revels at the time and were sued for the vast sum of £201. They then allegedly broke their contract with John Hind whose sons had been engaged as adolescent actors. Two copies of the contract, the earliest surviving document of its kind relating to the employment and working conditions of players, are preserved on the King's Bench pleas rolls. Its ten clauses cover rates of remuneration, managerial rights and responsibilities, the actors' duties, and the time and frequency of playing. It is suggested that the company whose activities were thereby regulated was the Earl of Leicester's Men, in view of Burbage's known association with that troupe. The documents complement and contextualize those printed in the pioneering research of C. W. Wallace into the Theatre's history, published almost a century ago.

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